Scarred Lands Campaign Setting: Ghelspad
Scarred Lands Campaign Setting: Ghelspad Capsule Review by daMage on 03/11/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
If you have ever desired a fresh new start for a campaign world, and hope someone else will give it the breadth and detail you wish for, then check out Scarred Lands Campaign Setting: Ghelspad.
Product: Scarred Lands Campaign Setting: Ghelspad
Author: Joseph D. Carriker, Michael Gill, Jeff Harkness, Conrad Hubbard, Benjamin Lam, Rhiannon Louve, Mike Mearls, James Sverapa, William Timmins, Michael Yates.
Company/Publisher: Sword & Sorcery Studios
Line: Scarred Lands
Page count: 247
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by daMage on 03/11/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
Introduction to the Product Ghelspad was the first continent introduced on the Scarred Lands world of Scarn, by Sword & Sorcery Studios. Introduced in 2001 via the Gazeteer, it has now arrived in full force in this 250-page hardbound resource. The book is divided into 6 chapters and an appendix. These sections cover, in order, the history of the land, the gods, the nations, the city-states, important locations, other notable places, and prestige classes. A full colour map of Ghelspad is duplicated in both the front and back inside covers; I found this very convenient as I was frequently flipping to reference it while reading.
General Comments: I found this book to be quite thorough, creative, and well-presented. It provides much more than adequate coverage of the entirety of the continient, both through a richly detailed and intertwined history and a vivid portrayal of the current state of affairs in the lands. The Table of Contents itemizes each place covered in chapters 3-5 for easy reference, but again I would have liked an index at the back, particularly for cross-referencing purposes. The interior B&W art is varied and adds dimension to the text in the form of depictions of locals, city maps, holy symbol icons and regional crests.
Chapter One: History of Ghelspad There is a great amount of detail presented in this chapter about everything that "happened before". It is presented in narrative style from several characters, and covers millenia of events, wars, and changes to the continent. Events are presented in the order that they occured avoiding the use of absolute dates to mark them. This works well, as the history is tumultuous and dates would not add anything to the presentation.
I found the history intriguing and very readable, but being nosy for detail, I often found myself struggling to relate the text information about the ancient kingdoms to the 'modern day' map. Some additional b&w map pieces showing the various key eras of Ghelspad's history would have complemented this section nicely. Not to be lost in my nitpicking, though, is that a very richly detailed history has been assembled for our use. I appreciate the effort that was put in to create the background for this vibrant, dynamic, and above all, unique fantasy setting. It explains well why the land is the way that it is, tying the diverse elements of a land together into something greater than the sum of the parts.
Chapter Two: The Gods of Ghelspad Here is the familiar breakdown of the gods and their positions on the wheel of alignment. Each god is niclely fleshed out in a few short paragraphs, and firmly placed in their role throughout the land. They are also each accompanied with a nice graphic representing the holy symbol of the god. A table at the start of the chapter assembles the vital details for each one, and also lists each of the titans and several demi-gods introduced in The Divine and the Defeated.
A nice inclusion is the ability of any worshipper of a god to invoke a blessing to aid them in certain, appropriate tasks. Another simple addition is that, since druidic magic comes from the titans, they can escape from the 'true neutral' only restriction common to their class depending on which titan they honour.
Chapter Three: Nations of Ghelspad & Chapter Five: City-States of Ghelspad These chapters flesh out much of the high-level aspects of the world. For each is a summary showing population, government, ruler, languages, religions, currency, exports, allies and enemies. Further detail is provided in sections for history, geography, people, ecology, culture, crime and punishement, religion and armed forces Finally, the capital and major cities are discussedin varying levels of detail.
This is the largest section of the book, presenting information on 17 nations and 18 city-states. As the other sections, it is well-written and well-conceived, as it continues to tie the histories of these smaller area of the land into the big picture. Anyone who found the gazeteer lacking in meaty substance will find an absolute bounty in these chapters.
Chapter Five: Important Locations in Ghelspad & Chapter Six: Other Places of Note in Ghelspad Functionally similar to the previous two chapters, these ones deal with the various geographical peculiarities that make the continent as diverse and interesting as it is. 30 areas are described in chapter five, following the format of the preceding chapters. Chapter six gives a quick synopsis on another 26 locations, and together they fill in most of the lands that lie between the nations in the less hospitable areas of Ghelspad.
Appendix: Prestige Classes: Hands up everyone who looks to the new prestige classes first whenever they open up a resource book. These are, in many ways, what the PC is playing for - the chance to be unique and exceptional in incredible ways (and as a GM, I enjoy a fresh and nasty twist to the archetypal enemy). Eight new classes that are well suited for restoring health and safety to the lands of Ghelspad are given, each bringing both interesting game mechanics and role playing opportunities as characters to the game world.
Worth separate note here is that included after the appendix is a black and white map of the continent, otherwise identical to the full colour ones on the inside covers. I did find the colour ones harder to search for locations on if I didn't already know where they were, and this b&w map makes this task easier as it is quite clear.
Conclusion I think it's pretty clear that anyone who intends to run a campaign on the continent of Ghelspad should invest in a copy of the Scarred Lands Campaign Setting: Ghelspad reference book. It is certainly a worthwhile purchase with tons of detail and more than enough speculation to allow the world to evolve uniquely to your vision as a GM. I recommend reading it cover-to-cover to get a full feeling for the depth and interconnectedness of the lands, the people and the history of Ghelspad.
I'll admit here that the only other campaign setting I'm familiar with is the old Forgotten Realms, so I can't really compare to other comparable, newer d20 products. Regardless, this is a rich and (most importantly to me) fresh new world with well developed mythological, political and ecological structures.
Rating: A plus